Brazilian Presidential Elections: Hobson’s Choice Between Two Evils
When asked to explain the current political situation in Brazil, most Brazilians wonder where to start, and how it all began. These are complicated questions, and have left us all distressed far too often. Since the presidential campaigns began around three months ago, answering these questions has become literally impossible.
Today the country votes on who will lead the country for the next four years. This election will go down as the perfect representation of democracy in the twenty-first century: dishonest, extreme, paranoid, full of fake-news, and ultimately corrupt.
Both the Presidential candidates and their proposed Vice Presidents have been involved in vicious schemes, possess questionable attitude towards several groups of people, and have proclaimed absurdities that should have cost them everything if brought to light. Jair Messias Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad are two sides of the same coin, and each of them sits at opposite extremes of the political spectrum.
Jair Bolsonaro, a retired army Captain, served 27 years as a representative in the Chamber of Deputies – the lower chamber of the Congress – representing the state of Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro has decided to aim higher, and brought a friend along with him. His VP candidate is a retired Brazilian Army General, Antônio Hamilton Martins Mourão. During his time in congress, Bolsonaro became known for his strong opposition to left-wing policies, and put forward 171 bills and one constitutional amendment – two of which became law. He has demonstrated a retrograde rhetoric towards women, people of colour, and the LGBT community, and his presidency would be a step back for progress and equality under the law.
Fernando Haddad, an academic, has served as Mayor of São Paulo from 2013 to 2017, and as Minister of Education from 2005 to 2012 in the cabinets of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Manuela d’Ávila, his VP, is a feminist journalist and has been a member of the far-left Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) since 2001. She praises Castro, Maduro, and Che Guevara on a daily basis. After losing out on the Workers’ Party (PT) candidacy – Haddad party – she agreed to be Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s VP, the original presidential candidate. Since Lula is in jail he cannot run for public office under the Ficha Limpa law. Without Lula PT had to choose another candidate, a spokesperson to follow their master’s orders. Haddad was that choice, and is considered a puppet by many, an empty vessel existing only as a receptacle to be filled with “advice” by Lula, who he visits constantly.
We know manifestos are worth nothing. If we had to decide between the candidates solely on their proposed government plans, liberty would have little to fear. Brazil, like most countries, plays it safe and follows the established political agenda, therefore neither manifesto brings any really radical policies to the table.
Bolsonaro, likely due to his military service, wants to reform firearms license laws. The Brazilian constitution has no provision guaranteeing the right to bear arms, and in 2005 Brazil’s leading political parties and advocacy groups promoted a national referendum to ban arms and ammunition commerce altogether, which would render possessing and carrying firearms practically impossible. Haddad is against any reforms on this matter, choosing instead to further strengthen police control. It is important to note that Brazil scores 5/5 in homicide and 4/5 in political terror, access to weapons, and violent crimes according to the Global Peace Index.
Bolsonaro speaks of a free Brazil. A government responsible for defending and bringing back a citizen’s most precious thing: freedom. His manifesto states that ‘people should be free to make their choices and live with the fruits of these choices, as long as they do not interfere with essential aspects of the life of others’. God, family, freedom, entrepreneurship, efficiency, competition, liberalism, privatisation, individuality, private property and compassion are words that pop up constantly throughout his plan. Words which echo the US Constitution. He speaks of preserving fundamental rights, and how liberty paves the way to prosperity.
Bolsonaro is reverent when he talks about developed countries like Japan, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, and the U.S. He attributes to Liberalism and the free market the increase in wealth, job opportunities, prosperity and social inclusion. The last section of his manifesto is entirely dedicated to economic liberalism, which is not a surprise since his economic adviser is Paulo Roberto Nunes Guedes. Paulo is a Brazilian economist and co-founder of the Instituto Millennium, a liberal think-tank. He attended the University of Chicago, where he was taught by Milton Friedman, and would likely be selected for Minister of the Economy if Bolsonaro wins the election.
Haddad’s manifesto is like a leftist bible. It opens up with a quote from Lula, followed by a promise to increase spending on health, education, and internal security. It is important to highlight that increasing public spending is against the law in Brazil, which is the only country in the world with a fixed government spending cap to minimise inflation. The cap was introduced by Michel Temer in 2016 and is intended to last 20 years. Haddad does not support this law, which he sees as an extension of the ‘coup d’état’ (quoted 13 times throughout his manifesto) against President Dilma Vana Rousseff (PT), who was legally impeached two years ago.
Haddad proposes taxing the rich and redistributing wealth in order to generate revenue. His programme for Government describes the current government as illegitimate, blames neoliberal policies for the country’s current situation, and invokes the name “Lula” 55 times (easily beating “democracy”, which appears only 32 times). Haddad is against privatisation of any sector, especially finance and energy, and is also against reform of social security, welfare, or labour laws, choosing to strengthen workers’ unions instead. Haddad wants to continue the drug war despite acknowledging that prohibition does not work. Haddad intends to regulate the media, even proposing a ban on Whatsapp due to its potential to spread fake news. Unlike Bolsonaro, who states that all humans are equal under the law and have the same rights, Haddad’s manifesto focuses on “returning” the rights of women, indigenous people, LGBT and people of colour, unlawfully stripped away from them by “fascists”.
Haddad and Bolsonaro both have pros and cons. They talk a lot about unimportant and unnecessary matters, and they are blindly preaching to their respective bases. They fail at communicating their ideas outside their own political bubbles, and have successfully divided Brazil into three entrenched groups: progressives, conservatives, and libertarians. This third group have no choice to vote for. There will be no drastic changes coming from the establishment above, but maybe there will be below. This year, libertarian-leaning candidates were elected across the country, so maybe there is a light at the end of Brazil’s political tunnel.
Brazil is 518 years old this year. It has been a democratic republic for only 2 percent of that time. Even that is a stretch. No rational person would call it a true democratic republic. We spent almost 80 percent of the time being ruled by European thieves, and since have spent the other 20 being ruled by Brazilian thieves. Our inaptitude in exercising our independence has resulted in this mess of an election. That is why we are making headlines across the globe. Today’s presidential election is a “collective hysteria”, and most of the people forget that regardless of who wins, we all lose. It is not difficult to predict the conflict of the four years ahead. But, for a country which has already experienced 518 years of madness, what are four years anyway?
May God help us all.
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